SOUTHEND’S new public library could become the first in Essex to open 24 hours a day.

Councillors are considering plans to give residents round-the-clock access to the new library, which is being built on the former Farringdon multi-storey car park in Elmer Avenue.

A card swipe system would be used to give members access and security guards would be on hand when library staff go home for the evening.

Users would be able to get books out electronically.

Derek Jarvis, councillor responsible for libraries, said: “Because security guards will be in the library all night, it seems sensible to explore the option of opening the library to people who want to use it.

“The university is keen to allow it as there are a lot of students who may need to use it very early or late for their work.

“However, it is only an idea at this stage and nothing has been decided yet.”

Richard Shepherd, of Princes Street, hopes the increased hours will encourage Southend residents to read more.

He said: “It is an excellent idea for it to be open 24 hours as I think there is a real problem with literacy in this country.

“But I think the lack of staff is a bit worrying as people might just be going in there to shelter.”

Residents living near the library raised concerns about security and parking congestion.

Edward Duffort, of Elmer Avenue, doubts security guards will be able to keep control of visitors if trouble breaks out.

He said: “The council seems to have forgotten this is not just for the students, it is for the public as well.

“I have no problem with the library, but my problem is there might be no real security.

“One man sitting behind a desk isn’t going to do anything.”

The nearest car park, on Elmer Approach, closes at 10pm and residents are concerned visitors will fill the surrounding streets with cars.

John Barrow, of Elmer Avenue, said: “If I come home late at night and I can’t park I’m going to have to find somewhere in another street, but I’m registered disabled so can’t walk that far.”

Southend Council hopes to open the new library, a joint venture with South Essex College and the University of Essex, on September 30, 2013, and work has already begun clearing the land where the car park used to be.